Digging Deep With Free Agents To Fill In The Giant Gaps
The Giants have begun their OTAs, and they’ve also been busy diving into the free agent waters in the few weeks since the draft. With mandatory veteran's minicamp beginning next month, the 2013 season continues to creep closer and closer, and the team is looking toward filling up those final few holes before they get ready for training camp and the preseason.
The team signed free agent LB Aaron Curry, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Curry was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, but has been bothered by knee problems throughout his young career, and only played two games for the Oakland Raiders last season. He was close to falling out of the league before the Giants scooped him up, and they're hoping that he can play a similar role as Keith Rivers, another former top 10 pick that the Giants added to the defense before last season. The addition is one the Giants sorely needed, as they failed to pick up a linebacker in the draft.
Curry, if healthy, should be a nice complementary piece to what the Giants have already put together at the linebacker position, and is a good low-risk acquisition much like Rivers was last season. These players have a decent risk-reward ratio: if they can play up to the potential that landed them in the top 10 of their respective drafts, there is a tremendous upside; if they don't pan out, the Giants don't have to worry about taking a big cap hit.
Speaking of cap space, the Giants still have some wiggle room left under the salary cap and can still afford to pick up another piece in free agency. There are several quality free agents that the team can pick up in the coming weeks to round out their roster if they so choose. Some of the more notable names still out there on the market are Keith Brooking, Kerry Rhodes, Nick Barnett, Sheldon Brown, Quintin Mikell, Chris Gamble, Quentin Jammer and Charles Woodson.
Most of the players listed there are veterans at the backend of their respective careers — players whom the Giants would probably be able to sign to a one- or two-year deal for relatively little money to add some experience and depth to a few positions of need like linebacker and cornerback. A veteran linebacker to provide some leadership for the unit and play a role similar to the one Antonio Pierce played for the Giants would be an invaluable piece, and signing an older free agent like Brooking would only amount to a cap hit of about $1 million, at the very most. The team has yet to sign draft picks Justin Pugh, Ryan Nassib and Eric Herman, so the remaining cap space that the Giants have left to spend will be lower once their rookie contracts are negotiated.
Charles Woodson is also a name that jumps out as a possible veteran addition to the defensive backfield who can spell Antrel Rolle on occasion. With the Giants losing Kenny Phillips earlier in the offseason, adding another veteran to the secondary could help — although it's clear that Woodson is on the decline. If the Giants could bring him in on the cheap, it might be a risk worth taking if he can turn on the rejuvenation machine and have a bounce-back season or two with a change of scenery.
To round out the free agency rumors, the Giants are reportedly one of the four teams that former Browns returner Josh Cribbs will choose from when he makes his decision. The Giants could use Cribbs in the return game, an aspect of their game that was incredibly anemic until David Wilson arrived on the scene last season and gave it the spark they sorely needed. With Wilson now likely to get more carries out of the backfield this coming season, it might suit him better to focus on that and pass the baton to someone else when it comes to kickoff returns. There are few players in the league that have been better than Cribbs in the return game during the last few seasons, so it should be interesting to see if he ends up in New York.
The Giants also added five more players last week in free agency to compete in rookie minicamp, including former Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Frank Okum, who didn’t play in 2012. In addition, they picked up TE Michael Palmer, WR Jeremy Horne, CB Junior Mertile and S John Stevenson.